July 1975

Indian mysticism defies explanation

The inaugural World Cup started on June 7, 1975, but India failed to enter into the party spirit

The inaugural World Cup started on June 7, 1975, but India failed to enter into the party spirit. In his Diary of the Season, Tony Lewis reflected on a strange day at Lord's

Sunil Gavaskar: considered the England score unobtainable © Getty Images
If the Prudential Cup stopped now, rained off for a week if you like, it will be remembered as a wonderful venture which prospered under blue sunny skies.

The players have taken to it; that eradicates my doubts, held rather shamefully I confess, that first-class cricketers do not consider the oneday game a valid test of talents and so accept defeat too readily. These have their country's honour to defend of course. Possibly too there is an undercurrent of old rivalries, nurtured in Test matches, which forbids easy surrenders. Certainly you never truly forget the man who shouted and swore at you in front of thousands or knocked your `hob' over for a low score. Only in the matches against East Africa and Sri Lanka could you see the top players relax slightly.

Yet my week started with a performance of Indian mysticism which defied explanation. In front of a full house at Lord's, including many of their supporters, India in the person of Sunil Gavaskar refused to chase England's total. Dennis Amiss stroked a brilliant century, 137, leading England to the highest score ever achieved in one-day cricket, 334 for 4. India replied with 132 for 3. Sunil Gavaskar blocked out the 60 overs for 36 not out. G. S. Ramchand, the manager, made a press statement afterwards that Gavaskar had considered the England score unobtainable and had taken practice. Crazy! Did he not read the rules of the competition which state that teams tied with the same number of wins at the end of the `Group' stage will be judged on overall run-rate.

I suppose I have had as close a look into the Indian mind as any cricketer, but I would never risk a guess at Gavaskar's motives. His cussedness could quite easily have been formed before the match by matters of selection, his hotel bedroom or even the nightly meal allowance! Whatever the motives were he had no right to force them on the sponsors who have put £100,000 into cricket this summer, or on the 16,274 spectators who paid £19,000 to watch.

Dejected Indians ran onto the field, pathetically pleading with him to die fighting. Their flags hung limp in their hands. It was a perverse moment of self-inflicted shame.